A poem by John Ashbery popped up in an unusual place this past weekend — in the middle of T: The New York Times Style Magazine, a glossy and high-fashion appendage to the Times. But there in the midst of the “Winter Travel Issue” one can find an installment in a series T has apparently been doing called “A Picture and a Poem” (other entries have included a poem by Major Jackson paired with an Alex Katz, and a poem by Henri Cole paired with an image by Hernan Bas).
Ashbery’s poem, “Domani, Dopodomani,” (which is accompanied by an audio version of the poem read by Ashbery himself) evokes the difficulty of maintaining contact with distant friends and family (“Once in a while a message arrives here / from friends we haven’t seen in some time. / Family members try to reach us / to ask about old questions”), before heading off into strange Ashberyean territory (“I can hear the signs breaking up. / To have half-lived in a balloon to Akron / solves it, at least for now”).*
The New York Times feature brings together this wistful Ashbery poem with a haunting work by Xavier Veilhan, to create a collaboration they’ve titled “The Fading Light”:
John Ashbery’s evocation of American ennui inspired the French artist Xavier Veilhan to create a paean to loved ones blurred in memory.
*Update: I’ve posted a follow-up note on this poem, with some remarks Ashbery made about it, here.